Below is a 1938 letter asking Caltrans if old state highway 37 (formerly the Dutch Flat Donner Lake Wagon Road) is under the jurisdiction of the State or Nevada County, or if it has become the property of the owners of property which adjoins the road. This Soda Springs area mentioned is two miles to the west of the portion of the road we are concerned with.
Caltrans' answer is below this letter.
Below is Caltran's response:
"The road, however, has not been abandoned and, in the opinion of this office, is still open to public use."
Below is another Caltrans letter in response to another person who asked Caltrans about the same road. Mr. Purcell, Chief Engineer for Caltrans, notes there are "several houses and a school on the old road...maintained as a stock trail, although the road is still in use by automobile traffic."
Caltrans maintained it at a minimal level "for stock trail purposes" but this is evidence that they did not restrict other public uses of the road.
Below is a 1917 letter from the California Highway Commission, making it clear that the state viewed this road as serious business. This letter also make it clear that the state owns the "dirt under the road."
Newspaper writers give us their opinion as if they have some great insight that we don't. But it's nothing new. This is from the editors of San Francisco's Daily Alta on December 6, 1864:
Stanford and Company, by their greed and tangling, are now engaged building a feeder for their Dutch Flat and Donner Lake wagon road over the mountains to Washoe, and nothing more. The whistle of the locomotive will never awaken the echoes in the Donner Lake Pass, for the reason that no locomotive can ever get there.